This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V21", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
In our remarks on Mr. Sargent's notice of Mr. Fay's plantation in the last number, it was said: "the Larch is profitable, but it is far less profitable than many other kinds of trees would be;" on which a Massachusetts correspondent remarks: "What tree is more profitable to plant on the worn out, exposed hills of Essex county, Mass.?" Of course we can attach no definite meaning to the term "worn out." Cotton lands become "worn out" in the South; after a five years crop, it will yield profitable Cotton no more. It is left to grow up to brambles and weeds. But such weeds, and such brambles ! No one would think that the soil was worn out for them. So with the "worn out" hills of Massachusetts. The land was probably worn out for agricultural crops, but this should not mean worn out for trees. The land may be just the thing for trees; but exactly what trees could only be told by an expert after an actual examination of the location and the land.
But the remark about the Larch was induced by a general feeling among those who have been watching American grown Larch, that its durability in this climate is not near what it has been supposed to be in times past in Europe; and we say "times past" because at the present time, if we read reports correctly, the timber from the Scotch plantations in a large number of cases has not proved to have the durability that was expected of it. This is generally ascribed, especially in our country, to a disease of the leaves. It is extremely rare to find Larch trees that have not the upper half of the leaf brown before midsummer, probably from the attack of a minute fungoid parasite, and it is well known that any trouble of this kind in any tree impairs the quality of the timber. If we have not estimated American-grown Larch correctly, of course we shall only be too glad to be corrected, for the timber interest is likely to be too important to trust to any thing but well ascertained facts. And then we thought there might be other things which might have brought in an earlier profit than Larch. But this depends so much on soil, location, and peculiarities of markets, that nothing more is claimed for this suggestion than to lead planters to look at what may be, before planting.
A Massachusetts correspondent says: "I think that the burden of proof about the quality of New England larch timber is with you. If this tree does not produce here valuable timber the fact ought to be known, so that people may not go on planting it. On what is your opinion based? Is not your idea of this timber rather got from Pennsylvania or Western grown specimens than from those grown here where all the conditions for the developement of this tree are better than in your warmer climate and richer soil ? This seems too important a subject to pass by without some further remark. Yes, there is much Essex County soil which is too poor but it produces our best fruit trees, even White Pine won't grow on much of it".
[It is precisely because we thought that "if the larch does not produce valuable timber, the fact ought to be known," that we made the suggestion. Our hint was offered chiefly from the fact that at almost any meetings of nurserymen of wide experience the under-current conversation is against the great value of the larch, as compared with the wonderful accounts of its durability we find in European books and forestry. Little has certainly been said publicly against it, but it is clearly the duty of the journalist to give the news of the day when it is likely to have a widespread importance, wherever he may find it.
Outside of this under-current, there are physiological reasons, in the wide-spread injury to the leaves by fungoid attacks as already noted, which must affect the quality of the timber, and this fact alone should at least induce caution in selecting it for large investments. And this is rather more than a physiological deduction, for those who have kept the run of periodical literature know that this leaf disease prevails extensively in Scotch forests, and that where it prevails the timber is considered inferior to the best; and it is also well known that in Scotland where the larch has been tried to a greater extent than perhaps anywhere, it is not nearly as popular for planting as it once was. This is all the "proof" we have for advising caution in its use. It may be worth a great deal more than we are inclined to believe it is. It would give us great pleasure to record all the facts derived from American experience of its use that may be sent to us. This is particularly the line of study we desire to encourage. We have had entirely too much of European experience applied to American forestry.
We are about to enter on an era of great moment in connection with American forest planting, and the great want of the times accordingly is American forest experience].